tct9: coffee scene – dave olejnik of laynes espressoBack
Dave Olejnik used to just walk and walk, learning the city and its movements, and the different characters of its streets. New Station Street wasn’t the prettiest part of town, but the Leeds Brewery Tap had brought it a fresher feeling, and a Sunday stroll brought Dave past that way and to a sign in a window. “‘Unit to Let: Call This Number.’ It was Sunday, but I couldn’t wait ’til Monday. I said I was calling about the shop, and he goes, ‘Yeah, I can see you, come on in!’”
The landlord had been turning down prospective occupiers until the right idea came along, and an independent coffee shop met with his approval. With the lease signed, crowbar met plaster, and Dave and Carl Fleischer spent two weeks cleaning sixty years of grime from their prize brick wall. “I’m so glad we did, because that’s part of the aesthetic I wanted here, those warm colours. I hoped those sorts of features would be in the building somewhere, and luckily it worked out alright.”
The Laynes aesthetic and style has its roots in the coffee culture of the USA and further, absorbed while Dave toured as a guitar tech and then as a coffee trainer and auditor, where he learned not just about the drink but the industry, experience applied to Laynes in its approach to sourcing suppliers not just of coffee but of tea, cakes, bread: “Pulling in good local suppliers, like Leeds Bread Coop, adds to the whole cup of coffee,” said Dave.
The other critical element is the staff. “I’m totally blessed to have a self-motivated staff team, who pay so much attention to the coffee,” said Dave. Everything has to be right – the coffee weighed, the temperatures checked, the ratios of espresso and milk calculated. “When that cup of coffee is put down in front of a customer, it’s the staff who have created it. We’re serving over 200 drinks a day here, so you’ve got to be on it a couple of hundred times a day, and that’s hard work.”
It’s work they love, though. “I think staff turnover is zero percent,” said Dave. One who did leave was Christina, who returned to Norway after studying in Leeds, a customer who had asked daily when Laynes would make her dream of a job there come true. “When I told her I needed somebody, and offered her the job, I think she cried a little bit! Everyone really wants to be here. When I walk in and its the same set of guys, and we’re all in this together and we’re all mucking, it’s so rewarding that we all did this. Especially Carl, who has been here from before day one, and helped scrub the bricks and build the bar.”
Carl also has the distinction of having served Laynes’ first ever customer. There was no grand opening announcement, no great unveiling; just a coffee shop that was ready to serve coffee, and a feeling that Dave and Carl should open the door and see what happened. “After about twenty minutes a guy walked in and went straight to the bar, and my nerves just shot me out – I didn’t know what to do! Carl jumped up, served him an americano, to take away. And I was like, we just sold a cup of coffee. That’s amazing. Let’s sell some more!”
Originally published in The City Talking Leeds: Issue 09